Notes for Notes® (N4N) is a non-profit organization making a difference in young people’s lives by establishing recording studios across the United States. With the help of Notes for Notes®, children are given access to a variety of instruments and recording equipment to help educate and express themselves through the art of music. As a proud sponsor of Notes for Notes®, we recently sat down with N4N’s CEO and Co-Founder, Philip Gilley, to learn more about the nonprofit’s founding and impact on communities over the years.
Can you tell us a little bit about Notes for Notes and what inspired you as the CEO/Co-Founder to create the organization?
Notes for Notes® is a non-profit organization that builds, equips, and staffs after-school recording studios (inside Boys & Girls Clubs and after-school facilities) packed with guitars, drums, keys/synths, DJ gear, digital music stations and full recording studios offering youth completely FREE access to explore, create, and record music. We currently have 25 studios in Boys & Girls Clubs and after-school sites in Austin, Santa Barbara, Nashville, LA, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Harlem, San Francisco, Ventura, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis, NOLA, St. Paul, Washington DC, Chicago, Denver and coming soon, Vegas and beyond. Beyond creating music we also educate about the multitude of careers around the industry and the positive paths the music can be the catalyst to.
Growing up in Vermont I was lucky enough that there was music education in the schools. However, I can’t read music therefore I couldn’t successfully participate in class despite the desire to. I wanted to be a film composer but was discouraged at an early age by my third grade teacher who said, “If you can’t read music, you can’t make music.” So, I gave up until 17, when my mom got me an acoustic guitar and I taught myself to play via tablature. That’s when I realized I could learn by ear and the rest is history.
After leaving college and moving to California I found myself living in Santa Barbara parking cars as a valet. Little did I know I would meet many of our Advisory Board members like David Crosby and Jeff Bridges this way. Living in a city bigger than anywhere else I’d ever experienced built an internal desire to find a community. That’s when I decided to volunteer as a Big Brother and found an incredibly rewarding experience as a mentor. However, there were only so many times we could go bowling and to the movies. I’d hoped to introduce my Little to something that would stick with him beyond our time together, so I thought maybe I could get him playing guitar. But he wanted to learn drums and I didn’t have any so we’d head to the local music store and do what all musicians do… loiter and don’t buy anything. However, that’s where I’d teach him drums on the demo kits in the store.
It was this experience that spawned the initial idea of Notes for Notes. Why wasn’t there a space where youth could get their hands on instruments that allowed them to make the music they wanted to make, learn how to play, record, and learn about producing and engineering? It didn’t exist, so we decided to build it. I’d managed to get a simple two room version of the studio up and running populated with a lot of my instruments including my first guitar sent from VT. However, it wasn’t until my Co-Founder Rod Hare stumbled across this first studio while visiting on behalf of the SB Bowl, the local venue that was looking for programs to support with a $1 per ticket model. Rod would help secure our first funding, form our board, and inspire me with the potential of where N4N could go.
Can you describe the recording setup used at N4N studios?
N4N would not have existed even a few years before had it not been for the democratization of recording technology. When we launched, Pro Tools was nearing expanding beyond DigiDesign hardware exclusivity, therefore allowing us to afford a studio setup. Thanks to numerous sponsors like Audio-Technica, Avid, PreSonus, Casio, DW Drums, Zildjian, Gibson, Kala, Native Instruments, and Focusrite, we are able to equip our studios with top of the line gear. Our DAWs include Pro Tools, Ableton, and Studio One and we use interfaces like PreSonus 16.0.2 and AR16s with monitors from PreSonus like Eris 8 and KRK Rokits. Thanks to Audio-Technica we have top-of-the-line mics like the AT2035 and headphones like the ATH-M20’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Audio-Technica has been proud to sponsor N4N for more than 10 years, providing quality audio equipment from the PRO 63 Cardioid Dynamic Instrument Microphone to the ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones. How has this equipment changed the experience for students of the N4N program?
At N4N we believe in providing youth with the tools that allow them to make the music they want to make. Our studios and range of gear are more than a resource, they are also a message validating their worth. At N4N you are an artist and you are worthy of these resources to make your music. The currency of the studio is respect. We respect your right to express yourself through music and we ask that you respect us, your peers, and the gear. Our gear is very well taken care of because we focus on empowering our members to treat it as if it’s their own. Give them the best and they will rise to their best.
Featuring a track from every studio, Notes for Notes’ 2018 Annual Album was recorded using A-T microphones! What A-T equipment have you used for music production? Comment below!